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East Helena police chief resigns; documents say it follows allegation of sexual assault

East Helena City Council confirms acting police chief as permanent chief
Posted at 8:21 AM, Mar 16, 2021

EAST HELENA — The chief of the East Helena Police Department has resigned from his position with city documents indicating it came after he was accused of sexual assault.

Police Chief William Harrington submitted his resignation letter to the city on March 5.

MTN News filed a public information request Monday, seeking more information about his departure. The city released a series of documents from February and March.

According to the documents, the city learned on Feb. 1 that someone had filed a complaint with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that Harrington had sexually assaulted them.

A letter from Mayor James Schell to Harrington indicates the city placed him on paid administrative leave on Feb. 3, while investigating the allegation. The city contacted the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation to conduct the investigation.

City leaders emphasized Monday that the criminal investigation has not yet been completed, and Harrington is presumed innocent.

Documents show on March 4, Schell notified the state Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) about the allegation. The POST Council certifies public safety officers in Montana.

The city also brought in an outside law firm – Ugrin Alexander Zadick of Great Falls – to investigate Harrington’s workplace conduct.

Harrington’s March 5 letter was only one sentence, stating he was resigning immediately as an employee of the City of East Helena.

Harrington had worked for the East Helena Police Department for more than a decade and was named chief in 2019. He had also served as acting chief after each of his two predecessors left the department.

In a statement to MTN News, city leaders said EHPD currently employs three full-time police officers, one currently moving through the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, and an administrative assistant.

They said the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office is also assisting with patrol and emergency response. Leaders said the city will be working with LCSO on a possible agreement to provide “staffing and leadership” within the police department, to support officers until a new chief can be found.

“The City is committed to having a local police department its residents trust and respect,” the statement said.

MTN News attempted to contact Harrington on Monday but was not able to reach him.